Identifying When You’ve Been Triggered

Posted on 31 August 2015

Being able to spot when you’re about to self-harm can help you stop/distract yourself as soon as you start to feel that way.

With all of this, it’s best to try and keep a diary of your situation every time you self-harm, so you can look for a pattern. If there’s one thing that’s repeatedly happening before you self-harm, then it’s time to do something about it. Writing everything down and getting your thoughts out on paper is a good first step.

Identify Your Feelings

By becoming more aware of yourself and your feelings, you can start to understand them, and deal with them. Self-harm is often a way of dealing with emotional pain, so it’s worth trying to identify what feelings make you want to hurt yourself. Sadness? Anger? Shame? Loneliness? Guilt? Emptiness? Frustration? Just take a minute to think about what feelings lead you to that point. Once you’re aware of what the triggering feeling is, then you can do something positive about it next time you start to feel that way.

It might even be that you feel totally disconnected from your feelings, and you don’t feel anything at all. In which case, try to become aware of your feelings. Not just when you’re about to self-harm, but all the time. Acknowledging and understanding how you feel is a really important step. Remember: Feelings exist for a reason. They don’t always make sense, so don’t worry if they don’t make sense to you right now. Given enough time, all feelings will change on their own.

Ask yourself some questions to try and highlight which areas of your life causing you to hurt yourself:

  • How have things been at school / work?
  • Have there been any stressful events to deal with? (deadlines etc)
  • How are your relationships at the moment? Both with friends/family, and romantically?
  • How’s your health been?
  • Have you had enough sleep?
  • Have you had to deal with a traumatic event?
  • Do you get triggered by anything specific? Certain images/a film/a topic of conversation?
  • Have you gone through a big change?
  • Do you feel like things around you are happening out of your control?
  • Is there a particular time and/or place when you self-harm? If there is, you could try making sure you’re with other people at that time or place.
  • Are there particular people that make you feel the need to self-harm? What can you do about them?

Do you get any physical urges?

Your mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing are closely related. What harms your body harms your mind, and vice versa.
Be aware of any physical sensations like a racing heart, sickness, or shallow breathing.

Keep an eye out for patterns in your behaviour before you self-harm, and when you spot that you’ve been triggered, do something positive about it. What you do depends on what it is that’s triggering you.

Some quick things you can do right now if you need

  • Tear up something into as many pieces as possible
  • Punch pillows
  • Clench then unclench every muscle in your body
  • Write down everything that you’re feeling
  • Get outside, and go for a walk
  • Have a cold shower
  • Tidy around your room